Peter Eisenman on the Power of Sketching, Reading and Critical Thinking

“We do not have a disciplinary model that suits the students and paradigms of today,” argues Eisenman.

Paul Keskeys Paul Keskeys

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“The front line today, for me, is within the system of architectural education,” asserts Peter Eisenman, questioning the very foundations upon which contemporary design theory is based. The renowned American architect and critical thinker sat down with architectural content agency PLANE—SITE to film this provocative interview for the “Time Space Existence” collateral exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia 2016, lamenting the “loss of authority” within the current educational system.

“We do not have a disciplinary model that suits the students and paradigms of today,” says Eisenman. “I teach the past rather than the present, because the present is very problematic.” These are pertinent words from an architect who is almost as well known for his theoretical views as he is for his buildings, and Eisenman’s opinions will undoubtedly ring in the ears of architectural professors and students long after this year’s Venice Biennale is done and dusted.

Eisenman continues by revealing his philosophical stance on architectural drawings. “The drawings are an indication of the idea and attitude that the architecture has.” The architect refers to conceptual sketches as “the red thread” that acts as a historical trace of thought itself.

The architect, a member of the famous “New York Five,” goes on to explain his desire to produce an “architecture of concentration.” Eisenman advocates for a built environment that causes people to stop and think. “This kind of an architecture … stops the clear relationship between platitudes from power to people.” This, he argues, gives rise to a form of architecture that meets its objective in transcending conventions and becoming art. After all, says Eisenman, “Art is beyond power.”

Finally, Eisenman rails against the use of modern software in architecture school, launching a stinging attack on the processes associated with parametric design. “Technology is a cruel tool, because what it does is defer the possibility of the student being creative. The student can take an algorithm, produce 50 alternatives to the same problem … It takes away from you the possibility of value judgment.”

The critical thinker leaves us with a reminder of the power of traditional mediums in the pursuit of wisdom. “To me, to be an architect, you have to be educated, and what you would take on a desert island if you’re an architect is not a computer — you’d take 10 books.”

To hear more of Eisenman’s brilliantly outspoken views, make sure to watch the video. Also, head this way for further Architizer coverage of the Venice Biennale.

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All images via PLANE—SITE on Vimeo

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Kavgolovo Guest- and Bathhouse // AB CHVOYA

Kavgolovo, Russia

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102BG // Pardini Hall Architecture

London, United Kingdom

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